The reality of the C8 Corvette carrying its engine behind the driver has set in at this point, after nearly 50 years of Chevrolet toying around with the idea. The hype storm surrounding the C8 continues to swirl, though that is unsurprising considering the dramatic transformation that America’s sports car has undergone. While we all wait with bated breath to see just what this new Corvette can really do, it’s a perfect time to reflect on how Chevrolet was able to make this car happen. In a recent interview with Popular Mechanics (photos), Corvette executive chief engineer Tadge Juechter and a team of three other engineers sat down to talk about the C8’s development, including the equal parts cool and mysterious “Blackjack” prototype.
Back in 2014, aerial photos appeared online showing a rather peculiar looking ute driving around General Motors’ Milford Proving Grounds. Rumors immediately began to spread as to what the car might be, including a mid-engine Corvette mule, as it was taken shortly after a blockbuster report claiming that the next-generation Corvette would be mid-engined. That assumption wasn’t wrong either, as underneath the misshapen Holden VE Commodore ute bodywork sat a chassis that would teach Chevrolet how to redesign the Corvette like never before. Blackjack was built in 2013, the year Chevrolet launched the C7, and is essentially a C7 Corvette cabin with Holden fascia grafted to the front and a pseudo pickup bed out back to disguise the engines placement, underpinned by the C8 Corvette’s chassis. The mash-up prototype was created to develop the mid-engined car’s structure and suspension, arguably the most crucial part of the sports car’s success during this transition.
The odd choice of camouflage was a result of the C8’s entirely new layout, according to Juechter. In that interview with Popular Mechanics, Juechter stated that unlike with previous generations, his team couldn’t disguise the C8’s development with the previous generation car’s proportions, so they went with the ute look. While Blackjack was critical in developing the C8 Corvette’s suspension tuning, it also helped the team dig into some production issues. According to Popular Mechanics, at the time of the prototype’s construction, There was not a single supplier with the die capacity to produce the large pieces that make up the C8’s front and rear structure. The development team milled those parts for Blackjack from a solid block of aluminum, using 7,000 pounds of metal to produce only 400 pounds of parts. Not the most efficient way to do things if you plan on making thousands of copies of a vehicle.
As the development process went on, the prototypes began to look more like the model we are familiar with today. Regardless of how good the finished C8 looks, we can’t help but love the fact that the mid-engined sports car was developed under an Australian ute’s body.